Investigation Reveals a Catholic Monk Required to Register as a Sex Offender in California Quietly Moved Out of State and Now Lives in Oregon

A Franciscan brother who has been convicted of child sexual abuse has quietly moved from California — where he was a registered sex offender — to Oregon, where he is not required to register. We call on Catholic bishops in Portland and Los Angeles to warn the public about him and seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes.

Robert Van Handel, a monk who founded a boys choir and was principal of a seminary in Santa Barbara, admitted that he abused young boys for nearly 20 years. He pleaded guilty to “lewd and lascivious behavior,” went to prison and was required to register as a sex offender

An investigation by USA Today found him living at Courtyard Fountains, a senior living center in Oregon, where he has been since 2013. But the Franciscan brother is not on the sex offender registry in that state because it has a different system for evaluating abusers.

We strongly suspect that few in Oregon know that Van Handel has been accused of abuse by nearly two dozen victimsArchbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, OR, should now take steps to warn parents and parishioners about the Franciscan’s presence, using all resources at his disposal including announcements on church websites, in parish bulletins and from pulpits. 

Both Archbishop Sample and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the new president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, should also reach out to anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered abuse at the hands of the monk and urge them to call independent sources of help and make a report to local police and prosecutors.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant